The photographer in me would view the Wonder Wheel and a pica pole with much trepidation when used to crop my photos in the paste-up room. Before really understanding journalism, say when I was around 19, I enjoyed shooting photos of evertything. Rocks. Trees. Mountains. People. Boats. Pretty much sums it up.
When I had my first image published, it was gratifying. Then, reality set in. Since I was a freelance photographer back then, I was at the mercy of a copy editor trying to fit a horizontal photo in to a vertical space. I was paid by the column inch, so the bigger the photo, the richer I got.
One copy editor, a nice enough guy who was probably 97 at the time, didn’t really care if I came in with a beautiful six column photo after a shoot. “Gotta vertical space here Porter, needs to be cropped!” Out would come the resize wheel (Wonder Wheel) the pica pole and a sharp exacto blade and hack slice, that beautiful news photo became cutting room fodder. Oh, the Pulitzer’s that were sliced away.
College was ten times worse, we 19 and 20 somethings didn’t know squat about laying out a newspaper. The first edition of El Paisano, the college paper I worked for in Texas, was a true work of art. Photos crooked on the page, bad captions, images sliced to bare bones.
From there I learned to shoot full frame and gained a comprehensive knowledge of the Wonder Wheel’s working. By the end of the year, there were really only two of us laying out the weekly paper. Jon Lutes the editor and I became very good at putting the entire paper together on three hours sleep and Pizza Hut pizza. When I cropped a photo, I was the one responsible for the lousy crop. I performed hack slice many times just to get the paper out in time.
Of course there is a point to this!
Recently I came back with a hot weather photo. I knew it had potential for the paper so I left the image pretty much full frame. However, co-workers Crista Jeremiason and Chris Chung wondered if a tighter crop worked better. They were right.
The un-cropped version:
The cropped version as it appeared in print: